|HANDSPAN VISUAL THEATRE|
|Premiere||17 October, 1997|
|Venue||Shed 14, Victoria Dock Melbourne, Melbourne Festival of Arts|
RAISED BY WOLVES was staged in a warehouse with capacity for audiences of over 3000. It was developed as a cross-festival partnership with the Melbourne International Festival of Arts and the Adelaide Festival of the Arts, a Major Initiative project supported by the Australia Council1.
The work was commissioned by impresario Clifford Hocking, director of the 1997 Melbourne Festival, one work in a strategy to bring a new edge to previously conservative programming. In his pre-Festival roundup, Michael Harden wrote:
The production was much anticipated for several reasons. It was the public debut for Handspan’s newly appointed Artistic Director, David Bell and Handspan Theatre's 20th anniversary year. Bell was keen to re-position the company and re-branded it as Handspan Visual Theatre:
RAISED BY WOLVES was very ambitious and very complex. It was developed with Melbourne indie band Regurgitator, then riding a wave of popularity and recent ARIA Award winners, contemporary recording artist, Shinjuku Thief and Ben Cobham with his lighting company, Bluebottle.
The production's title referenced the myth of Romulus and Remus, the twins who were suckled by a wolf as babies, and founded the Roman Empire. Thematically, however, it postulated the decline of civilisation and culture and claimed closer connections to Satyricon. Teenage runaways, born of a giant cockroach in a modern urban wasteland, were beset by not only their own confused realities but by tortuous dreams and nightmares. Shipping containers, plastic and metal, overhung by multiple TV screens and capitalised slogans made up their world.
The work was described by Bell as 'sensory theatre': "fragmented images that are rapid, fleeting and sweep together for a lasting effect2". Its combination of actors, animated imagery, video projection, industrial machinery, large scale puppetry, live rock music and live video aimed to create a multi-focused experience for the audience. Shed 14 was huge and watchers trudged rather than promenaded through a vast clutter.
Over 50 people worked on the project requiring a production budget of over $250,000 dollars – a pretty astronomical investment in Handspan’s terms. Details of its production are included in a Showtime interview with company production manager, Mikkel Mynster.
Despite its ambitions and promises, RAISED BY WOLVES was not well received. 'Multi-focussed' turned out to be 'un-focussed'. Audiences choked in the smoke of several pumping machines, got lost in the darkness, or blinded by the lights, and deafened by the sound.
The performers, some inexplicably wrapped in yards of transparent plastic, and the images, which appeared and vanished from all directions, were unable to make an impact in the general confusion. Dialogue was fragmented and inaudible. Actors and cockroaches segued from character to character and wandered amongst, around and on top of, travelling scissor lifts. Strobe lights and fluorescent tubes flashed and shapes burnt with pyrotechnical flare.
Young theatre-goers did attend in significant numbers, and danced to Regurgitator and Shinjuku Thief. It was like a rave party. General public audiences generally didn’t appear to enjoy the experience.
Most theatre critics were harsh:
The 1998 Adelaide Festival was also unimpressed and on being required to contribute significant additional financial investment into a new RAISED BY WOLVES season, organisers in Adelaide cancelled the engagement.
- Australia Council, the Australian Government’s arts funding and advisory body Major Festivals Initiative
- Nova Weetman: Cockroach Fantasy. Inpress Magazine 15 October, 1997
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|Writers||David Bell and Bill Haycock|
|Text fragments||Stephen Sewell|
|Executive producer||Fleur Parry|
|Assistant director||Katy Bowman|
|Lighting designer||Ben Cobham|
|Recorded soundtrack||Darren Verhagen (Shinjuku Thief)|
|Structural design||David Hope|
|Video imagery||Richard Grant|
|Production designer||Daniel Zika|
|Production manager||Mikkel Mynster|
|Structural realisation||Hamish Alderson-Hicks, Katrina Gaskell,|
|Ingrid Maganov, Alison Ross,|
|Mary Sutherland, Rob Townsend|
|Set construction||Art Tec Constructions|
|Pyrotechnics special FX||Jack Moeller|
|Stage manager||Julie-Ann Willems|
|Deputy stage manager||Natasha Marich|
|Assistant stage managers||Jacqui Barry, Cathy Healy|
|17 - ? October|
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